Sunday, April 24, 2016

New kicks for a cool kid

Pure joy!! Who knew simple pair of sneakers could light up a kid's face like this? Id Krism is one of our most dedicated, hardworking college students. Last week he excitedly told me that he was joining a summer basketball league, but his daily footwear consists of a pair of plastic flip flops and the dress shoes he wears to school. Today we found this pair of basketball shoes in a box of donations from the States. They're perfect fit!

Thank you to everyone who has donated to our mission! I wish you could meet Id Krism and all our friends here to see the joy in their faces. They truly feel loved by your support!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Why I'm [still] a missionary

It’s 10:48pm and I just finished rinsing the last of the lice shampoo out of my hair. It’s just a preventative measure this time, but I’m being a little extra careful because a few weeks ago at this time of night I was picking dozens of little eggs off my scalp. Lovely, I know.

I have lice on my mind because earlier today I spent hours with a young girl in fourth grade who has a good number of these little buggers all over her head, but that fact is easy to forget when you catch sight of her adorable smile and inquisitive brown eyes. Her name is Jessa.

We first met Jessa this morning up in a mountain village after attending the community’s annual fiesta Mass. My mission partner Melissa called me over to inspect this little girl’s legs. Her left leg is strangely bent and will not straighten; she walks gingerly with a painful limp. She has two large wounds, one on the outside and the other on the inside of her leg. What happened?

Jessa and her grandfather explained to us that they are only visiting in Camiguin for a few days and tomorrow will return to their home on the mainland. Five days ago at home, Jessa was leading a work horse, pulling it by its rope, when the rock she was standing on slipped and she fell, badly injuring her leg. She suspects it is broken, but they have no money to see the doctor. Jessa and her grandfather both embody the attitude I have seen countless times here among the poor -- “We’ll get along somehow. We’ll make it work.” And I understand why; what other choice do they have?

But WE have a choice. We offered them a ride to the hospital, where the pediatrician requested an X-ray for Jessa’s leg. The nurse cleaned her wounds and Melissa purchased antibiotics as well as some soap and shampoo; Jessa appeared as though she had not bathed in a very long time.

“What is your religion?” I asked her. “Are you Catholic? Do you know Jesus Christ?”

“Yes,” she smiled broadly. And so I told her, as I try to do with each of our patients, “Jesus loves you.”

Somehow in Visayan the words come across even more beautifully - “Nahigugma si Hesus kanimo.”

Jessa desperately needs someone to remind her of that fact daily. Her parents are separated, and she lives with her elderly grandfather and one sibling. She clearly has no one to teach her to bathe, no one to pick the lice out of her hair, no one to dress her wounds, and no one to bring her to a health clinic where she could be treated.

During our car ride home, I caught Jessa repeatedly stealing glances my direction, then smiling and shyly looking away. I knew why. Here was a girl encountering love freely given, possibly the only time she has experienced that kind of love from anyone other than her grandfather. I gently rubbed her back and wished for more time to get to know her.

Usually we see our medical cases all the way through, from admittance to discharge, from initial checkup to final followup. But with Jessa it is different because she and her grandfather will leave Camiguin tomorrow and we’ll likely never see them again. They have no cell phone number, no form of contact.

We can only pray that they take our advice with to bring Jessa’s X-ray to the government hospital, where she can receive medical assistance free of charge. If her leg is not fixed now, she may be crippled for the rest of her life.

Job 24:12 says that "the soul of the wounded cries for help." In this case, I think God did not want our help so much to treat the wounded body as the wounded heart. To let a little girl know she is loved, cared for, valued. To let her grandfather know that there are still people trying to live the Christian life to its fullest, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

Yes, Jesus, that is why I became a missionary. To love others as myself out of love for You!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Missions: Glorious, not glamorous

Missions is really hard.

I write this at the risk of stating the obvious because there still exists a false idea that missions is one thrilling adventure after another, hiking mountains to preach the name of Jesus to unconverted tribes all while wearing dri-fit clothing, drinking from coconuts, and singing praise songs.

Has that happened in my life? Yes. Does that accurately describe my day-to-day life? Not even close.

The founders of Family Missions Company are famous for saying that while mission life isn’t glamorous, it is glorious. This is true.

There is nothing glamorous about the stench of human waste in an overcrowded hospital ward, bedsores that refuse to heal after months of intensive treatment, and medical bills so high that you sincerely begin to wonder if God will again work a miracle and provide the funds to pay for it all.

Update: Two days later, Michael is still in a very hot, open-air transient ward
waiting for a hospital room to become available.
Yet how glorious to stand at the bedside of a dying child and know that, if Jesus soon calls him home, at least you had the opportunity to pray with him and to comfort his mother.

How glorious to be present when a stranger passes away in a neighboring cot -- to bring the love of our Almighty God to his family now drenched in grief by the loss of their father.

How glorious to assure parents who have lost all hope that God wants to provide for them, that they need not worry about the costs which they could never afford and rather focus on helping their child to heal.

I need to remember “glorious, not glamorous” on days like today. We began the day at 1:45am, transferring 21-year-old Michael (read his story here) in an ambulance across islands to a second hospital and then to a third, trying to find him the right doctor to treat his lupus and severe infections. All throughout the day we prayed and prayed for miracles, for our funds to stretch far enough to cover the bills, for an available room in the hospital, etc.

About 4pm this afternoon we had a new visitor at our house, a man whose 1-year-old girl has just been hospitalized for pneumonia, dehydration, fever, seizures, and possible brain damage. In my human weakness, I don’t want to take on this case. It means repeating the process of transferring another patient to the mainland all over again tomorrow. It means another teammate might have to accompany this family each step of the way to ensure they are receiving proper care and have their needs met. It means more expensive bills that we may not be able to pay if we do not receive enough donations.

But our God! For Him, these mountains are nothing - they melt like wax before Him. Our God is unconcerned with official diagnoses and dollar figures. Our God, using us as His instruments, wants to heal His children physically but even more so spiritually.

Thank you for becoming a part of this mission. Thank you for storming heaven with your prayers! Please help us to continue the work God has called us to do by donating to my mission fund, We need your help!! We are so grateful for every donation you make.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Mentored into mission

This week we brought 22 young adults from Camiguin on a mission trip to Malaybalay City! For them, it was a unique opportunity to experience the life of a missionary, to bring Jesus' love and mercy to their brothers and sisters who, not unlike them, are in great physical and spiritual need.

Home visit in Isla Bonita accompanied by three of our college students (on the left).
For us, it was the fulfillment of a dream and countless prayers. One year ago, when we launched our college ministry, we hoped that it would be much more than just financial sponsorship. We mentored the students throughout the year, watching as each one began to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus through prayer and Bible reading. We hoped to raise them up to be missionaries in their own right, teaching them to preach the Gospel and serve the needy just as every Christian is called to do by virtue of his baptism.

Students singing praise and worship songs at a Bible study.
This week, I was supremely blessed to witness these same students with whom I have journeyed over the past year doing exactly that: boldly preaching God's Word, sharing their testimonies in homes and on the streets, visiting the imprisoned and the sick, bringing food to the hungry and hope to the despairing.

For me, this mission trip was a confirmation from the Lord that our work here has made an impact. Through our witness and years of service, God is raising up more laborers for His harvest!

An enormous thank you to everyone who has donated to our college sponsorship program or to this mission trip -- the students pray for you daily!